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Sixers-Celtics preseason observations: Balance missing in 110-102 loss

Sixers-Celtics preseason observations: Balance missing in 110-102 loss

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The second look at Markelle Fultz has to wait as the No. 1 pick sat out of the Sixers’ 110-102 loss to the Celtics on Friday.

Fultz was sidelined by right shoulder soreness. The Sixers changed up their starting five with the substitutions of Jerryd Bayless for Fultz and Amir Johnson for Richaun Holmes. Ben Simmons, JJ Redick and Robert Covington remained in the lineup. 

The Celtics were in regular-season form with a starting lineup of Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford. Even though the Celtics’ roster is deep, the Sixers trailed by just two points at halftime thanks to 52.4 percent three-point shooting in the first half. 

• Joel Embiid missed his second straight preseason game. The Sixers have not announced a date for his return, but Brett Brown is feeling optimistic (not definitive) about Embiid playing opening night on Oct. 18.

“I believe that with the way it’s going now, if it continues and progresses a little bit, if that can be maintained and upped, then I think that we’re going to have enough body of work to be able to play decent basketball,” Brown said of Embiid. “It won’t be completely unorganized.”

• Simmons had eight points (3 for 8 from the field, 2 for 6 from the line), five assists, three rebounds and four fouls in 23 minutes. The Sixers used this game as an opportunity to see Simmons in different defensive matchups. Simmons started off guarding power forward Tatum and then small forward Hayward. Throughout the game he also defended point guard Irving and shooting guard Brown. When it came to offense, he continued to be aggressive at the basket. That aggressiveness also ended up resulting in two charging fouls trying to score against center Aron Baynes. 

• Irving scored a game-high 21 points (including five treys) in 25 minutes. 

• Bayless led the Sixers with 15 points (3 for 5 from three) and five assists. Jahlil Okafor pulled down six rebounds with 11 points off the bench. 

• Dario Saric isn’t the only one “trusting the friendship” with T.J. McConnell. Watch McConnell find Simmons for the alley-oop from halfcourt. 

• Saric (rest), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (right knee patellar tendinitis) and James Michael McAdoo (left hamstring tightness) did not play. Brown intends to rest many of his players in at least one preseason game (three remaining). Redick is slated to sit out Monday against the Celtics in Boston. Brown said it is possible Covington could miss that game, too. 

Best of NBA: Pelicans hold off late Lakers rally for 1st win

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Best of NBA: Pelicans hold off late Lakers rally for 1st win

LOS ANGELES -- Anthony Davis scored 27 points, DeMarcus Cousins had 20 and the New Orleans Pelicans withstood a furious rally to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 119-112 on Sunday night for their first victory of the season.

The Pelicans led by 22 points in the second quarter and were still up by double figures heading into the final period, but the Lakers made a charge despite a poor shooting night from rookie Lonzo Ball.

Reserve Jordan Clarkson had 24 points for the Lakers, but Ball shot just 3 for 13 for eight points. He did have 13 assists and eight rebounds.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope started and scored 20 points in his first appearance for the Lakers. Rookie Kyle Kuzma also had 20.

E'Twaun Moore, who went 0 for 5 in his last game, added 19 points for the Pelicans (1-2), while Jrue Holiday and Ian Clark each had 14 (see full recap).

Wiggins' heave banks in, leads Timberwolves past Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Andrew Wiggins' 3-pointer from a few steps inside halfcourt banked in as time expired to give the Minnesota Timberwolves a 115-113 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night.

Oklahoma City's Carmelo Anthony had hit a 3-pointer with 5.1 seconds left to give the Thunder the lead before the Timberwolves inbounded to Wiggins, who rushed up the court and got free with help from a crushing pick by Karl-Anthony Towns before pulling up for the winner.

Wiggins scored 27 points and Towns had 27 points and 12 rebounds for Minnesota (2-1).

Russell Westbrook scored 15 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter for the Thunder, who were coming off a loss at Utah on Saturday night. Anthony scored 23 points and Paul George scored 14 points on 6-for-20 shooting. Steven Adams had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Thunder (see full recap).

Allen Crabbe scored 20 points, Nets beat Hawks
NEW YORK -- Allen Crabbe scored 20 points, DeMarre Carroll had 17 and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Atlanta Hawks 116-104 on Sunday.

Caris LeVert and D'Angelo Russell each had 16 points to help the Nets improve to 2-1 with their second straight victory.

Marco Belinelli had 19 points for Atlanta. The Hawks have lost two in a row to drop to 1-2.

Atlanta point guard Dennis Schroeder went down with an apparent ankle injury with 3:37 left and had to be helped off the court.

Brooklyn found a way to win once again without Jeremy Lin, who was lost for the season on opening night with a knee injury, holding off the Hawks after leading by 16 points late in the third (see full recap).

Winless Suns fire head coach Earl Watson

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Winless Suns fire head coach Earl Watson

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns have fired coach Earl Watson just three games in to the NBA season.

The Suns announced the firing Sunday night after hours of meetings at the team's headquarters.

Assistant coach Jay Triano, a former head coach of the Toronto Raptors, was named interim coach. Triano was an assistant at Portland before coming to Phoenix last year.

Watson was promoted from assistant to interim coach of the Suns after Jeff Hornacek was fired Feb. 1, 2016. The interim tag was removed on April 19 of that year. With an extremely young team, the Suns struggled under Watson. He compiled a 33-85 record. Watson's only full season was 2016-17, when the team went 24-58.

The 38-year-old Watson played collegiately at UCLA and in the NBA for 10 seasons. He often spoke of his long talks with John Wooden, emphasized togetherness and a family atmosphere to nurture the young squad but wins were hard to come by.

And owner Robert Sarver apparently didn't like what he saw. Phoenix is 0-3 and two of the losses were especially ugly. The Suns were blown out 124-76 by the Portland in their season opener Wednesday night, the most one-sided loss in franchise history and the most one-sided season opener for any NBA team.

Phoenix was routed by the Clippers in Los Angeles 130-88 on Saturday night.

"I Dont wanna be here," point guard Eric Bledsoe tweeted Sunday, just as the news of Watson's firing surfaced in an ESPN report. The tweet by Bledsoe, a former Clipper, was followed by one from the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan saying "Come back home bro."

Bledsoe has been rumored in possible trades for months.

Watson's dismissal is the first NBA coaching change in well over a year. Hornacek's hiring by the New York Knicks, which was finalized in June 2016, had been the most recent change -- and the irony there is that Watson got the job in Phoenix with 33 games left in the 2015-16 season, after the Suns fired Hornacek.

Watson was the league's second-youngest active coach behind the Lakers' Luke Walton, and the Suns were tied with the Chicago Bulls as having the youngest opening-night roster in the NBA this season.

"I'd like to see the fight be a little bit more," Watson said after the blowout loss to the Clippers. "Or a lot more, until you know they're just fatigued."

The Suns came into this season with only four losses by 40 or more points in franchise history. They've had two in the first three games of this season. Phoenix has not made the playoffs in seven years, the longest drought in the franchise's 49-year history.

Watson was the 17th Suns coach in the franchise's history.

This was the first NBA season where every coach who started one year had the same job to begin the next.